It’s become obvious to me and many other observers that a growing number of people on the secular Left are giving up on freedom of speech – not their own freedom, but their opponents’ freedom.
Left-leaning USA today reporter Kirsten Powers is a very strong voice for freedom of speech, calling out many among the secular elite who have little time for this key freedom:
When it comes to views that dissent from their worldview, only one result is acceptable: total silence.’
But, you know what, they’ve got a point: freedom of speech can be burdensome.
It’s hard to listen to people with whom you disagree: you could even get offended.
And so, after much reflection, I’m now in agreement with many in the secular elite: freedom of speech has got to go.
Here are 4 good reasons why:
1) Freedom Of Speech Is A Gamble
If we lose that gamble, the consequences could be severe
Writing about the American Founders’ view of freedom, Christian scholar Os Guinness writes:
[Freedom of speech is a] gamble. The best, most true, most human, most just, most liberating and most beautiful views must prevail in open debate in generation after generation.’
That sounds a little too risky for my liking.
But it gets worse. Guinness continues:
If [truth] does not prevail, [democracy] will fail in the end…’
If the very future of our democracy is at stake, then surely we need to get rid of this high-stakes gamble we call freedom of speech. The ‘most true, most human, most just’ views must simply be imposed on society, without any risky open debate.
And who better to impose truth, than our secular elite?
2) The Secular Elite Are Infallible, and Know What’s Best
The rest of us ‘monkeys’ need only nod our heads in agreement
Our secular elite (i.e. much of academia, media, and the arts) are infallible: one merely needs to see some of the great ideas that have come from their thinking: unrestricted third-trimester abortions, gender as nothing more than a social construct (that we get to choose for ourselves), calls for infanticide…the list goes on.
Thankfully, enlightened programmes like the Australian ‘Safe Schools’ programme are now being thrust onto public school students, forcing the most cutting edge gender and queer theory onto young minds (e.g. boys being allowed to share the girls change rooms if they happen to identify as a girl).
Who needs open debate when the infallible get to shape public policy?
3) Freedom Of Speech Gives Voice To Groups That Oppose The Enlightened, Progressive Agenda
Who would want that?
Writing from the political left, Jonathan Chait writes:
The Marxist left has always dismissed liberalism’s commitment to protecting the rights of its political opponents…as hopelessly naïve. If you maintain equal political rights for the oppressive capitalists and their proletarian victims, this will simply keep in place society’s unequal power relations. Why respect the rights of the class whose power you’re trying to smash?
If the secular elite knows what’s best, why bother protecting the rights of political opponents? That’ll only get in the way of true progress.
4) Without Freedom Of Speech, We Get Better Outcomes As a Society
We don’t need to test ideas, as long they’re from the secular elite
The great utilitarian thinker John Stuart Mill argued that if our convictions are not tested and contested, held up to the most thorough scrutiny, and pitted against the strongest of contrary convictions, then how can they become properly robust?
He’s obviously missing the point, poor Mill.
If our secular elite are infallible, then we don’t need to test their views: we need merely to accept them. Sure, ideas like gender fluidity might sound a little (dare I say it) crazy: but let’s face it, they’re the ones with the brains.
In our post-God society, they’re the new high priests, who hand down knowledge from their infallible thinking.
Ours is merely to listen and accept their ideas with a grateful heart.
And Yet…Ideas Have Public Consequences
Which is why they must always be tested, preferably in public
Ok, enough satire.
The truth is that ideas really do have consequences: often serious consequences.
Which is why freedom of speech, apart from being a human right, is a very important safeguard: it allows society to test ideas through open deliberation and debate. As Thomas Jefferson declared:
[E]rror of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it’.
Of course, even ideas tested in the forge of civil debate can still be foolish and wrong: no society is infallible.
But when freedom of speech dies in a society, one of the first causalities is truth: those in power get to control the narrative. And history shows that things never end well for such societies.
Which is one key reason we must never let freedom of speech die, but exercise it vigorously.
Do you see freedom of speech as vitally important? Why or why not? Feel free to leave a comment below.